Billeder på siden

in the body; passing from blood into serum, from serum into lymph, from lymph of the first order into all the several orders; till at last, losing the nature of lymph, it acquires the subtle one of a spirit!" This is certainly spirit very much above proof. It is, after all, much the same notion, only worked out with more detail of chemical technicality, as that of Hoffmann,—and, indeed, of a great many more-that the spirit of man is a distillation of the body of man, and that the regions beyond our investigation are peopled with these volatile emanations, which retain the form of the human frame, but are without any of its other sensible properties-the ghost of Patroclus, as seen by Achilles, six thousand years ago, at the siege of Troy, and the ghost of the spirit-rapper as seen at Troy in the United States of America, in the present day. He speaks elsewhere approvingly of a notion, "that there is internally concealed a spirituous or nervous man, which governs the whole machine." What is this but the ghost??

We may give another striking illustration of the danger of being satisfied by an ingenious superficial explanation of a strange occurrence. He mentions a fish, resembling a skate, which, when touched, benumbs the hand, and explains it by the agitation of the skin, which is thrown into tremors by the subcutaneous muscle. "To me," he adds, "the whole affair seems to be no great difficulty; when a saw which is very tight and short is sharpened by a file, or a glass ball is sawed by a knife, or a short tense chord is scraped by the bow-all these operations give rise to such an intolerable shrieking noise as to set the teeth on edge. By the same reason, when the torpedo fish excites tremors in its muscles, similar tremors are excited in the nerves of the person who touches it." 3 What was no

1 Vol. III., par. 507.

2 Boerhaave's " nervous man may be compared with Bacon's "body pneumatical," see p. 196. If this

body pneumatical were liberated by
any process, would it not directly act
upon the nervous man or pneuma?
3 Vol. III., par. 484.

difficulty to Boerhaave, was one to Galvani, who made a voyage along the shore of the Adriatic to examine the electric eel -the curiosity of the Italian discoverer not being satisfied with the theory of the great Dutch doctor. Galvani, the discoverer, died in poverty, and left his name embedded in science; Boerhaave, the popular teacher and physician, died immensely rich, and is now nearly forgotten: each had his reward.

It is to this facility of being satisfied that we would ascribe the apparent contradictions in his writings. We have already quoted a passage in which he ridicules the notion of an Archæus,—a spirit dwelling in and governing the body; and yet we find him saying, that "the physician operates by his skill, not upon the disease, but upon life, which Van Helmont called the Archæus.” 1 In another place, speaking of perspiration, he says that "the physician who is master of the perspiration, has the secret for curing all chronical as well as acute diseases," and that "the cure of a pleurisy consists in restoring the perviousness of obstructed vessels." 2

One might attempt to reconcile these passages, by supposing he meant that the primary action of any remedy was upon the Archæus, the vital principle of the nervous man within the frame; and that this, once set right, acted in the most effectual way to free the body of its disorder by opening the pores, &c. In this case, all medicines would act upon the nervous system. But in contradiction of this, we find that Boerhaave was a believer in the old theory of concoction, and was essentially opposed to the immediate restoration of healthy action by the instrumentality of an Archæus. He says, under the head of the Signs of Disease, that "we may foresee that another disease will follow when the disorder and its symptoms diminish without any due concoction or critical evacuation of the morbific matter." Here 3 Vol. VI., par. 956.

1 Vol. VI., par. 1087. 2 Par. 429.


is a manifest recognition of the old doctrine of Hippocrates -his coction and his crises!

One of Boerhaave's prominent therapeutic maxims was, contraries are removed by contraries, or, "contraria contrariis curantur." This, however, he thus explains-" Not by such means as are directly opposite or contrary to the present disease, but by such remedies as will afterwards manifest their effects contrary to the cause of the disease"that is, whose ultimate action is a radical cure. "Paracelsus and Van Helmont ridicule the maxim contraria contrariis curantur, and point to the fact that a frozen man would be killed, not cured by exposure to the influence of the fire; cold, a similar, being the proper cure. But they do not reflect that in this case, remedies which cure or relieve cold by renewing heat must produce an opposite effect to cooling. In the same way, when we want to cool in fever, we do not give cold water, but such drinks as will produce cold as their ultimate, not their primary action.' Here we have the explicit admission of the opposite effects produced by the same curative agent, its primary action being one thing, and its secondary the contrary.

[ocr errors]


This is the fifth distinct signification of the maxim, contraria contrariis curantur. The first is that of Hippocrates, who said, we must produce an opposite condition of the body to that in which the disease has occurred. a man be too fat, he is to be made leaner; and if too lean, we must fatten him. The second is that of Galen, who said disease arises from excess of moisture, dryness, heat, or cold. Remedies are in their nature, moist, dry, hot, and cold. Give, then, hot medicines in cold diseases, moist in dry, and so on. The third is that of Paracelsus, whose arcanum was a specific, or opposite of the disease, as the knife of cancer. The fourth was that of the Chemists, who ascribed diseases to an excess of acid or alkali in the

1 Vol. VI., par. 1086.

blood, and founded their curative system on the neutralizing of this excess by giving an acid to an alkaline, and an alkaline to an acid. Lastly, comes that of Boerhaave, who says, "Give a medicine, whose ultimate action is curative of the cause of the disease, whatever its immediate action may be. If a hot drink produce perspiration in fever, then give a hot drink, for that will cool the body, which is what we want to do. If the primary action of opium is constipating, and of rhubarb laxative, and the secondary the reverse, according to the principle of reaction, then opium may be the remedy in constipation, and rhubarb in diarrhoea." Thus we perceive that between the maxim of contraria contrariis, as understood by Boerhaave, and that of similia similibus, there is no antagonism.

Besides advocating the system of rational medication, that is, of finding out an opposite to the cause of the disease, Boerhaave acknowledges the specific method which " removes the cause of the disease by the administration of such things as are known to be efficacious only from experiment." How imperfectly he appreciated it, however, we learn from his observation that, as bark cures ague directly, so opium is a specific for pain. Now opium does not remove the cause of pain, and therefore it is not a specific according to his own definition of the term. It is impossible to study Boerhaave without a feeling of surprise that so able a man should be so inaccurate in his observations, and so loose in his reasonings; and that he should have acquired so enormous a reputation, without having contributed one great fact, or even one important suggestion, to the advancement of the art over which he may be said to have presided for so long a period.

« ForrigeFortsæt »